Law School question


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beerslurpy
January 13, 2006, 02:54 AM
I got 96th percentile on the LSAT and I'm applying to law schools now. I am pretty sure I want to do trial law. Beyond that I am leaning slightly towards patent or technology law since I am already an engineer. Obviously I have a few years to decide what I specialize in. Also, I have been out of school for about 8 years and I am a software engineer.

Also, full time or part time? Full time will require me to eat ramen and possibly sell the house. Part time will put a strain on my time, no more posting on the interweb and no clerking during the off season. But I will have a lot more money if I do part time because I will be working.

My main worry with doing full time or going to *choke* california would be what to do with the guns and the car. My relatives (including inlaws) live in NY (NYC), CA (LA), IL (chicago), MA and the UK (yes, that country). It is a miracle I turned out like I did. Or maybe it isnt, actually.

Any suggestions? Lawyers? Anyone? Bueller?

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Boats
January 13, 2006, 03:10 AM
My one piece of advice:

Unless you are going to a law school with a national reputation, (and they are all full time), chances are good that you will practice in the state or region in which your law school is.

Choose a school somewhere you won't mind getting stuck if that's what happens.

beerslurpy
January 13, 2006, 03:18 AM
Ok, that is my main confusion at the moment. What is considered a "national reputation?" Top 10? Top 20? Top 50? Some law schools seem to have national reputations in 1-2 areas and merely regional reputations in others.

Then again, once you are a lawyer, doesnt your reputation as an actual practicer of law go a long way towards determining what your job opportunities are?

Besides knowing a few people I met there, going to a semi-big-name private university didnt really do much for my employment opportunities. I basically just followed word of mouth about how awesome a programmer I am.

gtd
January 13, 2006, 03:19 AM
Full time gets it done.

Part time takes only 1 extra year, but you can work.

Tailor your experience to your personality -- if you are interested in appellate work, you must be a bookworm and you should target a great, nationally recognized school. Trial work is more rough and tumble.

Don't lock yourself in, though. No one ends up doing what they plan to do. Just get the best law school education you can afford, and be open-minded about how you might use that education.

And, if it isn't fun it isn't worth doing.

Matthew Gross
January 13, 2006, 03:38 AM
What exactly was your LSAT score? Here is a link that can help your get a feel for your chances:

http://officialguide.lsac.org/UGPASearch/Search3.aspx?SidString=

Remember, the way the LSAC calculates GPA can vary a lot from the way your UG university calculated GPA. Any retakes are going to hurt you.

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 03:58 AM
Law school is like Jr. High, only with longer knives and higher IQ's.

Patent law is a great direction, if you have the hard science background to pass the patent bar and if you can tolerate a career dealing with technical and legal aspects of patents. It can be highly lucrative and the demand for patent attorneys continues to be high. If you want to go that route, you should think about taking a stab at the patent bar during law school, since it may take several attempts to pass. Failed attempts do not count against you--it's more akin to a civil service examination than the actual bar exam for a state. You do not have to have a JD to become a Patent Agent.

Law School and the market for clerks and associates is brutal and Kafkaesque. It operates on its own rules. Here are my three cents:

--Aim for a top 50 law school within the state or area of states you hope to practice in. For example if you want to practice law in Wyoming or Montana, going to UW is a better idea than going to a smaller less well known law school in Wyoming or Montana.

--Focus on your CLASS RANK. This is the single most important factor in getting you a job. More important to a great extent than the school you go to. You should work yourself hard and long as a 1L and focus on getting top grades. The ideal spot is the top 10%, which gets you into the Order of the Coif. After that come the top 25% crew and after that the top third. The grades that matter least are those from your last semester, so burn your energy that first year.

--Get into a good clerkship in your 2nd year if you can, or into an externship. The clerkship system is something of a vestige from the old days before the modern law school system, when many became lawyers through practicing as a law clerk for a lawyer for several years. The idea these days is that being a clerk at a big firm will give you a leg up on getting in as an associate. However I found this not to be the case in my own experiences and in those of my classmates. At big firms, the hiring attorneys for CLERKS are usually low level associates, while the hiring attorney for associates is a partner. Getting a high ranking is more important than your clerkship. In fact if you can get some good externship programs or trial practice courses those would work just as well for the resume as the clerkship.

--Try to get into law review. The law review is a legal journal edited by students and published by the school. In the old days law reviews tended to focus on black letter legal issues that were of some importance to practicing attorneys. These days most law review articles are used to get professors tenure and are meaningless left wing garbage. Nobody reads them but other professors. HOWEVER, being on the law review has a certain cache, esp. with older partners. It's worth doing if you can swing it. Some schools still pick law review students based on class rank, but others have a writing competition to decide.

--As far as jobs go, it's a nasty system. There's no other way to put it. You can expect to have several long knives in your back before it's over. The goal is to land a position as an associate before you graduate. The main route for doing this is the on campus interview, which is controlled by the firms via the career services office. This is the real game. Do not get confused by idiotic and pointless career tips from professional academics. They are usually clueless. The real game is nasty and highly competitive. Most firms will not even talk to those outside the top half, and depending on how famous your school is most want those from the top quarter at least.

beerslurpy
January 13, 2006, 04:00 AM
Only took the LSAT once and got 167.

My undergrad course of study was premed at hopkins, which is pretty brutal. The classes are all graded on a harsh curve to get people to drop out of premed. It is a pretty humbling experience and definitely not worth it if you arent totally dedicated to the medical track. My GPA was just under 3.0 when I graduated. Lowered by my lack of caring anymore around the middle of senior year when I withdrew my med school apps.

This was 7 years ago. Obviously my career took a different path. I switched to software and have been programming ever since.

On LSAT alone, I look well matched for the best schools. And way overqualified for the lower tier ones.
On GPA alone, I look unqualified for anything.
Obviously, something isnt right here.

Every lawyer I spoke to said that my GPA wouldnt really count for anything due to my age and that my LSAT were definitely good enough fior most schools.

beerslurpy
January 13, 2006, 04:04 AM
if you can tolerate a career dealing with technical and legal aspects of patents

Hahahah yeah, I live and breathe technical and legal aspects of everything. Part of me wants to apply to GMU because they have a kickass technical law program and they are conservative and in virginia. And the magic 8 ball says I will get in. But part of me has grown to love Florida.

edit: thanks Cosmo, that was very informative.

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 04:14 AM
Keep in mind that the admissions folks WILL ABSOLUTELY take the undergrad school's reputation for toughness into account. It's not a blind process. If your LSAT's are good and the school you came out of was a tough nut, the actual GPA figures can be lower. A 4.0 from Brown has less weight than a 3.0from a meaner school.

Also, the good news is that the SECOND YOU TAKE YOUR CHAIR on the first day of class, the LSAT score is meaningless, and your undergrad GPA only matters if it's exceptionally poor.

The fellow from my class making the most money is the guy who passed the patent bar and knows Japanese. On the plus side, he's making about ten times more than I ever will. On the down side, he's got to spend long hours dealing with Japanese patents! I'm not sure I'd want to trade places with him.

medic_guns
January 13, 2006, 09:20 AM
I am considering applying for law school as well. Right now, I work in public accounting and have passed one part of the CPA exam on the first attempt. I should finish all parts by this summer. An attorney I spoke with advised me to get a JD anywhere I could because it will not really matter, as I am thinking of working for myself representing clients in tax matters before the IRS and tax court. He also said that all I needed to do was get enough to pass the bar. In my case, I am 38 y.o., worked as a paramedic, owned my own business, graduated w/ 3.46 GPA, and now work in a firm. I really believe that I will never make it into one of the top programs out there. I'm not really connected, and I'm not really interested in working for others. Anyway, I wasn't trying to hijack your thread. I have been kicking around the idea of going to law school for some time because I have heard that the CPA/J.D. combination is practically a license to print money.:evil:

publius
January 13, 2006, 09:31 AM
My main worry with doing full time or going to *choke* california would be what to do with the guns and the car.
I'll take care of 'em for ya! ;)

I say keep programming and just hire a lawyer if you need one.

Henry Bowman
January 13, 2006, 11:30 AM
I am a patent attorney. Call me. PM sent with number.

Father Knows Best
January 13, 2006, 11:41 AM
Cosmo gave you excellent advice. I'm happy to give you a lot more, so I'm gonna send a PM with my contact info, also. FYI, I got my B.S. and J.D. from the University of Michigan (91 and 94, respectively). I spent five years doing trial work (products liability and toxic tort, mostly), and for the last 6-1/2 years have been in-house counsel for a medical technology company. My practice is global now, but I'm licensed in Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee.

beerslurpy
January 13, 2006, 01:09 PM
I feel the love. PMs received. Thanks guys.

engineer151515
January 13, 2006, 01:30 PM
I've been seriously considering a law school direction.

I'm a registered professional chemical engineer in 5 states. 20 years experience. My kids are almost grown and out of school. I will be single soon (sad but true). Therefore, I reason, I should have the time and resources to at least do an internet study toward a law degree. I've seriously considered Kaplan/Concord Law School but haven't pulled the trigger yet.

Northslope Nimrod
January 13, 2006, 01:47 PM
Go to Pharmacy School and make more money in a four day work week than most trial attorneys.
Have I convinced you yet?
Well, if you must go to Law School:
1. Any tier one or tier two school is fine.
2. Most state sponsored schools are fine.
3. Don't be too concerned about going to Ivy League unless you aspire to be a Supreme Court Clerk or a partner in a national firm or something.
4. If you are looking at being a trial attorney....focus on finsihing as fast as you can and with as little debt as you can. If you are $100k in debt you will almost be forced to sell you soul to a firm to pay back your loans.
5. I recommend full time if it is at all possible. In fact, if I had to do it part time, I would consider something else.

Advice for law school: The key is formulating concise rules of law from each case and then memorizing them. Once they are cemented in your brain....the analyzation will come naturally...unless you just aren't the analytical type....if you are not...then lawschool won't help. The professors will try to convince you that memorizing rules is not the key. Don't listen. They are looking for buzz words and rules and a short, concise analysis and an even shorter conclusion on their exams. GOOD LUCK!

Dannyboy
January 13, 2006, 01:49 PM
Count me as another one thinking of law school. My course will look something like medic's. I'm graduating in May with an accounting degree and planning on passing the CPA test by 2008 and then law school. From everything I've been told and read, Cosmoline is pretty much right on the money.

Marty Hayes
January 13, 2006, 01:49 PM
I've been seriously considering a law school direction. Therefore, I reason, I should have the time and resources to at least do an internet study toward a law degree. I've seriously considered Kaplan/Concord Law School but haven't pulled the trigger yet.

I'm in my 3rd year at Concord, be happy to answer any questions about the program.

engineer151515
January 13, 2006, 02:09 PM
I'm in my 3rd year at Concord, be happy to answer any questions about the program.

Thanks. That is kind. Because of some uncertainty, it may be next year before I could start. Email to mikejengineer@earthlink.net and we can talk. I congratulate you on your progress.

USMCRotrHed
January 13, 2006, 02:23 PM
I too was looking at law school. One of my concerns was the fulltime/part time question. Every law school I looked at would only accept full time 1L's. You had an option of going part time after the first year. Even at part time, schools will only allow you to work 30 hours a week.

By national law schools, any law school with a great reputation will do. With a 96th percentile LSAT (I'm jealous), and a GPA of that caliber, you should get in anywhere you want to go. If you think you may someday want to be a federal judge, go to an Ivy League school, Harriet Myers helped prove that SMU doesn't cut it. Otherwise, it is generally accepted practice to go to school where you want to work. You will learn the laws of that region as well as make vital contacts that will lead to jobs. Here in Oklahoma, I know of several companies that only hire lawyers who graduated from the U of Oklahoma.

When I looked at the big picture under my circumstances, I chose to get a masters in MIS instead. Half the time, 10% of the tuition, just as good pay, more time for family and hobbies! But I still want to go to law school, I understand your desire.

Father Knows Best
January 13, 2006, 02:50 PM
Wow. Lots of would-be lawyers here. Some general thoughts/comments for all:

1. If you want to be able to write your own ticket, i.e., work just about anywhere and make lots of money, then get into patent law. To become a patent lawyer, you need a hard science or engineering degree, and a law degree. Once you have those, and get admitted to practice before the USPTO, you're golden. Corporate America can't get enough patent lawyers. Trial lawyers, general corporate lawyers, etc., are a dime a dozen, but patent lawyers are gold. They also make more money to start than any other specialty. Rookie patent lawyers can easily make $150-200,000 a year.

2. Trial work is exciting and fun (I used to do it), but not very lucrative except for a very elite few. The best trial lawyers (plaintiff and defense) make into the millions. Plaintiffs' work can make you a multi-millionaire. For every trial lawyer who makes $250,000+ per year, though, there are a dozen who can't afford to replace their 1984 Chevy that burns oil. It's also extremely risky and high stress -- very hard on your health and your family life. Many, many of my colleagues who started out in trial law have long since burned out -- quite a few have given up law altogether. If you really want to become a trial lawyer, I recommend starting out as a prosecutor. It doesn't pay very well, but you get a lot of great experience that will pay off in the future.

3. Debt will kill your options. Law school loans are the proverbial "golden handcuffs." I turned down a job with the Michigan Attorney General that I really wanted because I had $80,000 in debt and the job didn't pay enough. Instead, I joined a big law firm for twice the salary. It worked out o.k. in the long run, as I now (twelve years later) have a great corporate job that pays well, but it sucked back then to have to take a job I didn't want 'cause I couldn't afford the one I did. :cuss:

4. If you want to be a federal judge or an academic (professor), you need a top 10 law school and a good judicial clerkship (federal appellate, at least). That means schools like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Virginia, Michigan, Chicago, Berkeley, NYU, etc. If you want to be a practicing lawyer, though, I don't recommend those schools. They're too expensive and the education tends to be too theoretical. If someone else is paying your way, and you can get into Yale, then go for it. If you have to pay for it yourself, then there are better values. I know a lot of very good and very successful lawyers, and very few of them went to a "top 10" law school.

5. If you know the region you want to practice in, then go to school there. The school should be "good", but doesn't need to be the "best." You'll have better job prospects as a top 5% student from a lower-tier school than as a sub-par student at a top school. In addition, the middle tier schools tend to be less expensive, and tend to have more available in the way of scholarships and financial aid. I passed up a 100% scholarship to a lower-tier school to pay my own way at Michigan. Big mistake. :banghead:

6. If you really don't know the region you want to practice in, you should stick with a school that has somewhat of a national reputation. That means top 50, not top 10 or even top 20. Lots of state schools qualify here.

7. In terms of you job opportunities upon graduation, your performance at school matters a lot more than what school you went to. Your undergrad GPA and LSAT score mean nothing. Your undergrad degree does matter, especially if it qualifies you to sit for the patent bar. Once you've been in practice for about 5 years, though, your track record in practice will matter far more than anything else. Still, your law school and grades will determine what doors get opened for you early on.

liberty911
January 13, 2006, 03:12 PM
Having gone through law school 7 years ago I agree with everything said by Father Knows Best and Cosmoline. I'll add the following:

No matter what, be sure the law school you attend is accredited. Most every state will permit you to sit for the bar if you attend an acceditated law school.

Tuition should be a major consideration. There is nothing like getting out of law school owing $100k. State school will have the lowest tuition. My diploma and bar card allows me to practice in any state and is just as valid as one from Harvard or Yale. I run into attorneys who pride themselves in graduating from Ivy League school and seem to believe the name of the school gets them extra credit. Those they associate with have a good laugh.

I took the 2.5 year "Spring Admit" program. Two and one-half years and I was out. This required year-round attendance. I was able to squeeze an extership with the Court of Appeal into the school year for credit. I had friend that took the "part-time" night school. Their class load was 1 class fewer per semester and required one more year of attendance. IMO, it is best to concentrate on the schooling and not have to concentrate on other aspects. Law school takes a lot of dedication and studying, especially in the first year. There is little time for other activites.


Generally, you can classify the tier of school by the jobs graduates receive:

People who go to Ivy League school usually end up working for someone else at a large firm. 60-90 hrs a week.

People who go to middle-tier schools work for the government.

People who go to lower tier school have their own practice.

Legion1776
January 13, 2006, 03:41 PM
Here's a site that is great for looking at various law school statistics based on applicants GPA's LSAT scores etc.


www.lawschoolnumbers.com

lysander
January 13, 2006, 04:23 PM
Wow....I had no idea that we had so many law types hanging out here at THR and some bright ones to boot. :) (self excluded)

Allow me to add my two cents (adjust for inflation as you will...being that I am still a law student.):

1) I add my support to the previous statements made about the top 25 schools. Do you have intentions to teach or sit on the federal bench? If not...save the money and find a different program. Do you want to work at one of the mighty national firms? If not...see previous. I have two family members (by marriage) who attended both Harvard and Illinois. They entered practice at "law factory firms", slaved to pay off loans, hated their lives and quit. One is out of the law altogether, the other is now enjoying life as a prosecutor.

2) Cost, Cost, Cost! To me it is everything. I started law school in downtown Chicago at an expensive private school (I was lured with a scholarship) and due to personal issues found myself failing out after a single semester. That single semester cost me a pretty sum...I'm currently enrolled at a state school where the costs are significantly lower...and the quality of education is actually higher.

3) Time...I am a bit older than most of the students in my class (closing in on 31). I worked and experienced life for awhile following undergrad...so I decided that I would drop out of the rat race and commit to full time. I am going to run up bills regardless...so I may as well compress the time and get it over with. My wife has been gracious enough to carry much of the financial burden (thank goodness....she is far better than I deserve...I remain baffled at my ability to play above the rim in this respect) so I will not work at all through the remainder of my first year. It is my intention to take as full a load as I can this summer and next...in the hopes that I can get myself out early. YMMV.

4) Course of Study...your first year classes are picked for you, so you will have time to figure out which direction you want to go professionally. When I started my law school quest...I had entirely different professional goals than I do now.Get your feet wet...and you will gravitate to what you enjoy and/or excel at.

Best of luck to you!


P.S. I wish I had the foresight as an undergrad to pursue a "hard degree" like engineering or something similiar...you are in an enviable position. :p

El Tejon
January 13, 2006, 05:00 PM
lysander, expensive private school? Was that Kent? I'm Chicago-Kent, '95.:)

I can only add the following: if you go, go full time. Before you go to law school, go to law school. Many private tutoring programs available now. It will help you especially your first year which controls your future in law school.

I worked full-time and went to school full time. You can make it work if you want to.:)

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 05:20 PM
An attorney I spoke with advised me to get a JD anywhere I could because it will not really matter, as I am thinking of working for myself representing clients in tax matters before the IRS and tax court. He also said that all I needed to do was get enough to pass the bar.

If you have at least 200k saved up, then yes you might be able to hang your shingle and make a go of it as a tax attorney. However, most real life tax attorneys have worked at firms and either have a CPA or an LLM in tax law. It's one of the most complex areas of law, so it's not a bad idea to operate in a firm for at least five years. Which means you still need to get hired somewhere.

iuindy2l
January 13, 2006, 06:11 PM
Lots of good advice so far. I would say, go to law school in a region you will be comfortable in, ie if you hate big cities, find a school in a smaller community. You don't won't to be miserable for 3 or 4 years.
Also keep your options open, once you get to law school, you might find out you really enjoy certain areas of the law you never considered.

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 06:22 PM
As far as the classes themselves, with few exceptions the exams are the key. Even in very "socratic" classes, participation only plays a minor role in your actual bottom-line grade. So focus your energy on the exam and don't get distracted trying to prep for the big mean prof's trick questions. Let him trick you, let him humiliate you. As long as you are prepared to offer some kind of answer being tricked won't hurt your grade--just your ego.

Many students find outlines helpful, though IMHO the most useful outlines are the ones you prepare yourself, not the ones you buy or borrow from some other student. I preferred making a kind of lean "scrib sheet" outline that included little mnemonic clues only I could understand. But then again I also wrapped two rubber bands around my head and one around my right ankle during exams to keep my chi in alignment.

The big weakness many from a hard science or engineering background have is inexperience with long, written essay answers to questions. Law school exams tend to feature pithy hypothetical questions to which you must write long essay aswers. Multiple choice exams are less common, though they may be more or less frequent depending on which school you go to. 1L's with a background in the liberal arts tend to be more familiar with these kinds of tests than others.

Cindog
January 13, 2006, 06:33 PM
One of the biggest misconceptions I had before attending law school was thinking that myself and all of my classmates would have six figure jobs just waiting for us after graduation. That was hardly the case. I know many classmates who would have been better off (financially speaking) had they not forgone their already established careers to attend law school. I also remember being a summer associate at a Big Law law firm and thinking of how inadequate my background was when the majority of my fellow want-to-be lawyers summer associated attended first tier law schools like Harvard, Yale, Penn, Duke, Michigan, etc. Which brings me to my sad but true realization about law school: regardless of how good of a practitioner you may actually become, everything, at least in the beginning, is predicated on what school you attend and how you do once you get in.

So, if you have already decided that you want to work at one of the Big Law law firms (which have offices in just about every major city in the United States and Europe) and make six figures the moment you graduate, then the most important thing for you to do is get in to the best law school that you can. U.S. News and World Report ranks law schools and the higher the ranking of the school you attend, the more doors are opened for you. Once in said law school your next step is get on law review and then graduate in the top ten of your class. If you choose this route, I would go full-time as you will likely be spending a lot of time in the library (at least during the first year).

If, on the other hand, you have already decided that you are not interested in Big Law life and would rather become a sole practitioner, work for a small firm, do plaintiff's work, etc. then I would consider going part-time and managing your law school debt. When I graduated the average debt was somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 and I imagine that it has gone up since then. If that is the case, I would attend a school in the city where you are most likely to practice as your classmates will become an excellent source of work.

Last, don't bother watching the Paper Chase. Everyone will tell you that it is it is the quintessential movie about law school. It wasn't. Good luck and feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

Father Knows Best
January 13, 2006, 06:50 PM
So, if you have already decided that you want to work at one of the Big Law law firms (which have offices in just about every major city in the United States and Europe) and make six figures the moment you graduate, then the most important thing for you to do is get in to the best law school that you can.

I can't disagree with that statement strongly enough. I went to one of those so-called "top" law schools (Michigan, which is usually ranked in the top 5). I graduated right about the middle of my class. Those in the top 25% had no trouble finding jobs. Those of us in the middle 50% had to work at it, and didn't always have many decent options. Those in the bottom 25% had a really hard time finding decent jobs. That's a lot of people, as my class had something like 350 people in it.

In my experience, it is far better that you finish near the top of your class, whatever the law school, than that you go to a top law school. Sure, graduating in the top 10% of a top 10 law school is better than graduating in the top 10% of a middle tier law school, but I still think you're better off graduating top 10% from a middle tier school than graduating mid-pack or worse from a "top" school.

Most hiring committees know what I know about law school -- it's mainly credentials that get you into a school. Your grades in school are a reflection of your talent and work ethic. They count for a lot more than the name on the diploma.

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 06:54 PM
The better the law school, the bigger the top cut will be. I went to a 2nd tier school and only the top 15% were really able to get good positions right out of school. In a top tier school the top 25% or 30% may be in a similar position. But certainly that bottom half is *ALWAYS* going to have a tough time.

Cindog
January 13, 2006, 10:19 PM
Father Knows Best,

Believe me, I know exactly what you are saying as I was in the top 10 of my class but at a third tier school and I was able to get a job in a Big Law law firm. Unfortunately though, I think those days are gone and I would much rather go to one of the elite schools like you did and take a shot at Big Law (or any other job for that matter) than do what I did. Of course, I wasn't nearly smart enough to get in to your alma mater or any other top tier school for that matter. And if you thought your bottom 25% had a hard time getting a job, you can just imagine what my school's bottom 25% are doing. Regardless, if you are using law school as a tool to increase your earning capacity, no matter where you go, graduate in the top ten to ensure your best odds. If not, pick a school, enjoy the journey, and you might just learn a few things along the way.

North Texan
January 13, 2006, 11:39 PM
I'm currently a 2L. I go to school full time and work part-time. Between work and loans, I can cover some expenses and keep my debt at a manageable level. My school is probably not considered "elite" by most, but it is accredited, and that's all that matters. I'm not in anything prestigious like law review, nor am I highly ranked. In fact, in a class of about 230 people, I wasn't in the top 200. Yet, I've got a clerkship I'm happy with and I appear to be headed for a job I'll probably be happy with, too. I've had a lot of people give me advice for landing that dream job, but that dream job is usually more their dream than mine. I won't be making the big $$$ some of the other fat cats in my class probably will, but I also won't be spending my Saturdays and Sundays in the office.

My only advice is this: take everyone's advice with a grain of salt. Your obviously a sharp fellow, or you wouldn't be where you are today. Sharp enough to trust your own judgment.

Marty Hayes
January 13, 2006, 11:46 PM
Q) What do they call the person who finished last in his law school class?

A) Counselor...

Cosmoline
January 13, 2006, 11:52 PM
I strongly advise AGAINST trying to work part time to save money. Focus all your energy on getting top grades. Maybe you won't want the high paying jobs, but your law school ranking will stay with you for the rest of your career. It's nice to have it if you need to make a change later on. I don't want to scare you with stories of JD's who can't pass the bar and can't get a job as a lawyer. But trust me it happens a lot more than the school's career services office is ever going to admit.

In the old days, they used to kick the bottom half out after the first year. It was brutal and cruel. Nowadays they let you linger till the end, and bill you a vast sum for it, knowing full well the JD you get at the end is worthelss paper.

My mean, nasty advice is to drop out if you're not in the top half after the first semester.

North Texan
January 14, 2006, 12:12 AM
My mean, nasty advice is to drop out if you're not in the top half after the first semester.

Okey dokey.:confused:

Cosmoline
January 14, 2006, 12:38 AM
You seem to have things in hand, NT. I just wouldn't advise an incoming 1L to try to follow your path. I've seen too many fail badly.

beerslurpy
January 14, 2006, 12:42 AM
But isnt the half of the class youre in determined by the quality of the class more than the quality of the individual? If everyone in a class is qualified to be a lawyer, doesnt that mean you are unfairly disqualifying a ton of potentially excellent lawyers? Or in any given class, do they accidentally admit a moron for every person who is cut out to be a lawyer?

Considering how selective admission to law school is, I can't imagine that more than 10-20 percent of the admitted students at a decent school are unqualified to practice.

Also, what if you havent written with a pen in 20 years? My hands were killing me after I wrote the LSAT essay and it looked like chicken scratch. It is going to suck if all the law exams are long essays.

edit: Ok, lets start with 2 assumptions:
1) admissions policies result in a class in which the top 80 percent can pass the bar and probably practice law
2) only the top 50 percent or a given class are allowed to practice law
3) all students are committed to succeeding and have the ability to do so
Conclusion:
There are criteria used to separate students into low and high rankings that have nothing to do with ones likely ability to be an effective lawyer.
Question:
How is ranking accomplished?

North Texan
January 14, 2006, 01:33 AM
I'm not advising people to follow my path, either. I'm just pointing out that not being tops in the class is not the end of the world.


Beerslurpy, here's some stats for you from my law school:

About 1,700 people applied to get into the law school. Of those, 245 were accepted. So much of the weeding out process takes place before the first day of classes ever start. Very few are lost to grades or drop out, and 98% are practicing law within 6 months of graduation. Assuming it's the bottom 2% that aren't, that still leaves 48% with jobs that were in the bottom half of the class.

First time bar passage for the school is somewhere over 90%. This last year, it was the highest in the state.

Marty Hayes
January 14, 2006, 01:43 AM
About 1,700 people applied to get into the law school. Of those, 245 were accepted. .

I always find this funny, please don't take offense. Lets say all prospective law students apply to 5 schools, and each school accepts only 20% of applicants. That means that 100 percent who apply eventually get accepted to a law school of their choice, (maybe not the first choice though).

Cosmoline
January 14, 2006, 02:48 AM
But isnt the half of the class youre in determined by the quality of the class more than the quality of the individual? If everyone in a class is qualified to be a lawyer, doesnt that mean you are unfairly disqualifying a ton of potentially excellent lawyers? Or in any given class, do they accidentally admit a moron for every person who is cut out to be a lawyer?

Oh, certainly. That's where Franz Kafka comes into play. It's a mean, brutal system and I personally saw it destroy many close friends of mine.

Also, what if you havent written with a pen in 20 years? My hands were killing me after I wrote the LSAT essay and it looked like chicken scratch. It is going to suck if all the law exams are long essays.

Some schools are letting people type their essays, but the potential for abuse has kept most schools from allowing computers to be used, at least AFAIK. You should practice writing longhand. I developed a massive callus on my middle finger from the pressure of the pen.

How is ranking accomplished?

Straight GPA pulled over a curve.

Keep in mind that the bar exam is a completely different issue. It's controlled by a state agency and has nothing to do with any law school. Some states are easy, some are really brutal. The only factor the bar plays during law school is to push students into bar-oriented courses rather than the easier theoretical courses.

Cindog
January 14, 2006, 10:14 AM
Beerslurpy,

This all may sound like a buch of mumbo jumbo now, but I guarantee that after your first semester of law school everything discussed in this thread will become abundantly clear to you. And you are right, being a good lawyer has nothing to do with how you do in law school or whether you pass the bar by 50 points or 1 point. My only point in brining up class rankings and school rankings is for those of who may read this thread and equate getting a JD with instant wealth as that is simply not the case. In the end, it's all up to you. Good luck, and let us know what you decide.

patentnonsense
January 14, 2006, 10:52 AM
Lots of good advice here from different viewpoints. I'd add (for prospective patent lawyers):
1) Check uspto.gov to make sure you're qualified to take the patent bar.
2) If so, register for it NOW.
3) Which school algorithm: a) If you can get into HY or S, do it at all costs. b) If you're sure about patent law, go to a school with a good patent program - George Mason is one, GW another. c) If you're going full-time, try to find a school with some national recognition - state law schools are often a good choice. d) Part-time will work too, especially if you can work as a patent agent while you're doing it.
4) Time: First year grades are extremely important, as they determine law review etc. Consider borrowing for first year only, and then going parttime.
5) Patent law is a fine area to get into, but you aren't very likely to make $150K in your first job.

PM me if you want more.

The Real Hawkeye
January 14, 2006, 11:25 AM
I got 96th percentile on the LSAT and I'm applying to law schools now. I am pretty sure I want to do trial law. Beyond that I am leaning slightly towards patent or technology law since I am already an engineer. Obviously I have a few years to decide what I specialize in. Also, I have been out of school for about 8 years and I am a software engineer.

Also, full time or part time? Full time will require me to eat ramen and possibly sell the house. Part time will put a strain on my time, no more posting on the interweb and no clerking during the off season. But I will have a lot more money if I do part time because I will be working.

My main worry with doing full time or going to *choke* california would be what to do with the guns and the car. My relatives (including inlaws) live in NY (NYC), CA (LA), IL (chicago), MA and the UK (yes, that country). It is a miracle I turned out like I did. Or maybe it isnt, actually.

Any suggestions? Lawyers? Anyone? Bueller?Patent law is my brother's field. He does very well with it. He also was an engineer first, working on the F-14's weapons systems. When Grumman Aerospace went under, he went to law school. That sounds like a natural course for you as well. If you scored that well on the LSAT you will not have much difficulty in law school. Part time sounds to me like a good option, if you cannot afford full time. Good luck, and congratulations for scoring so well on the LSAT.

PS, I imagine that you wish to leave engineering because of the lower wages that this field is bringing in lately. This is due, of course, to the various international "free-trade" agreements that we've been signing on to lately. Isn't one-worldism wonderful? Thanks Republicans.

ALHunter
January 14, 2006, 12:00 PM
1. If at all possible, try for a law school in state. out of state tuition, or private school tuition will be absolutely nothing but a burden on you later with law loans. i got a great education at a private law school, but owe $116,000. met my wife there. She owes $125,000. we now have 8 mo. old quadruplets, so i am paying both monthly student loan bills. even just paying one is a killer on a good salary.

2. Patent/IP work is good work and pretty specialized. If you go this route you'll probably need to take the patent bar.

3. If you end up in Birmingham, AL. for school, or even after, let me know.
always looking for a shooting buddy. My firm is generally expanding our IP group, so 3-4 years from now there could be an opportunity.

4. get on law review or at least some type of journal.

5. bust your balls and get good grades and a good class rank. GPA and class rank are what determines who gets on-campus interviews.

6. feel free to PM me if you have other questions on law school or the practice of law.

Marty Hayes
January 14, 2006, 01:33 PM
I would likely expect that the top firms look to hire the top graduates in thier class due to the fact they know that to be a top 10%, you had to put in 60-90 hours a week to accomplish that feat. They want people who can put in 60-90 billable hours a week once out. I personally have NO ambition to work 60-90 hours a week making someone else rich.

I'll take my part-time program I am enrolled in now, and continue living my life on my own terms.

spartacus2002
January 14, 2006, 09:53 PM
I will go on record as being the Bitter Lawyer. Most lawyers are miserable. Law firm life sucks unless you are a grind with no spouse, kids, or life.

Go to pharmacy school instead; you'll thank me later ;)

The_Antibubba
January 15, 2006, 03:39 PM
So, keeping in mind that my law interests may change, what schools have the best programs for RKBA issues? It's the main reason I want to go to Law school. I've heard good things about Utah State U.

Rockstar
January 15, 2006, 05:08 PM
You guys thinking that he's going to have his choice of law schools with a 3.0 and 167 must not have been too active in applying to law schools lately. 162 is the University of GA's average LSAT score. The average GPA is pretty close to 4.0.

Get in the best school you can in an area where you might want to practice. Good luck.

Son of a local friend of mine made a perfect score on the LSAT a few years back. He'd turned down Yale undergrad prior to that, in favor of UGA. With his 4.0 and perfect LSAT, he was offered a full ride at Harvard; checked out Harvard, didn't like it and returned to UGA for law school.

Guy's going to inherit about $20M; however, he's making several hundred thousand annually on his own, practicing tax law.

Bartholomew Roberts
January 15, 2006, 06:54 PM
Last year, I made the same leap you are now contemplating and left my comfortable and secure middle management job (with comfortable and secure salary) and applied to law school.

In fact, our profiles are somewhat similar except I had been out of school about 12 years, had a 163 LSAT and a 2.4 undergrad GPA (and a non-science major, though the major drag on that GPA was my attempt to combine bar-hopping with a aeronautical engineering major).

My experience has been as follows:

1) Go full time. Your first-year grades are some of the most important because most of the interviewing process takes place in the second year and your first year grades are all they see. Investing your full attention on the first year is important.

2) My low undergrad GPA did play a part in my not getting accepted to several top 15 schools. However, every school where I followed up on my application by keeping in contact with the admissions officials and made a point to emphasize my post-college resume (which was decent) accepted me.

3) You have a medium-sized elephant to eat so take it a bite at a time. Be aware of how the choices you make now may limit future options; but beyond that need for general awareness, concentrate on the applications process before worrying about your first-year grades, then worry about your first year grades before you sweat clerkships and networking, etc.

So far, I have really enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to working in a field that I actually enjoy.

beerslurpy
January 15, 2006, 07:21 PM
Patent law is my brother's field. He does very well with it. He also was an engineer first, working on the F-14's weapons systems. When Grumman Aerospace went under, he went to law school. That sounds like a natural course for you as well. If you scored that well on the LSAT you will not have much difficulty in law school. Part time sounds to me like a good option, if you cannot afford full time. Good luck, and congratulations for scoring so well on the LSAT.

PS, I imagine that you wish to leave engineering because of the lower wages that this field is bringing in lately. This is due, of course, to the various international "free-trade" agreements that we've been signing on to lately. Isn't one-worldism wonderful? Thanks Republicans.
Thanks hawkeye, but I honestly havent been hurt by the h1bs that badly. First, conditions in europe are actually getting really nice, so it is very painful for a company to hire visa people unless they are brilliant. In addition to my technical strength, my language skills and my interpersonal skills put me above many other engineers. I'm probably one of the top 10 compensated people in the company right now. (which sadly isnt saying much, we have a ton of low compensated engineers and managers)

That being said, I think my language and interpersonal skills are mostly wasted as a pure engineer. Finding a company that recognizes and can make full use of my talents is very, very difficult. As a patent attorney I can make use of a broader array of skills and be compensated well for it. Also, since this country is essentially run by lawyers, there are enormous barrier to entry in this profession and enormous institutional protections for it as well.

beerslurpy
January 15, 2006, 07:42 PM
Thanks for the advice Bart.

Also, thanks to the THR lawyers I have managed to speak with so far. I appreciate the value of your time and I am grateful for your advice.

The next few years are going to be tough financially, but the overall situation is looking up. All I have to do is finish and send out my applications by the end of the month and that should be most of the battle over with. My LSAT is up, my transcripts are in, I have 2 recommendations (one from a director, one from a lawyer I've worked with) and my personal statement is well on its way to being done.

I am trying to find out information on scholarships or financial help for aspiring patent attorneys. I am also thinking of taking the patent bar before I even begin attending. I am qualified to sit for it, the fee is affordable and it is simple multiple choice. With a few weeks of preparation, I may be able to pass it.

edit: whoa, it's a test about the USPTO beaureaucracy. I assumed it would be some sort of science test. Ok, serious study is going to be required.

Dave Markowitz
January 16, 2006, 02:04 PM
Ok, that is my main confusion at the moment. What is considered a "national reputation?" Top 10? Top 20? Top 50? Some law schools seem to have national reputations in 1-2 areas and merely regional reputations in others.

Then again, once you are a lawyer, doesnt your reputation as an actual practicer of law go a long way towards determining what your job opportunities are?

Besides knowing a few people I met there, going to a semi-big-name private university didnt really do much for my employment opportunities. I basically just followed word of mouth about how awesome a programmer I am.

Graduating from a nationally known school will help you get your foot in the door in the legal community. Only then can you start building up your reputation as a practicing attorney.

If you can swing it go full time. Aside from taking one less year, part time legal studies still require you to take at least 10 credits per semester, which is A LOT more of a course load than you may remember from undergrad.

Good luck.

WYO
January 16, 2006, 02:11 PM
I see a good cross section of views here. Here are my perspectives in no particular order.

1. A law degree adds value regardless of what you want to do with it. It can add a lot of value to an engineering background, more so than a liberal arts degree. It could open doors in the business world and government and not require you to practice in a law firm. You have to make a cost benefit analysis to decide if the added value outweighs the opportunity cost.
2. The guys who make the really big bucks in a law firm aren’t the grunts doing the work but the people who bring in the clients and get a piece of the action generated by the grunts. If you can bring in clients on day 1, you can be a golden boy from the start. If not, you have to work your way through the system to get to the top. Major law firms that pay the really big bucks are sweat shops for people in the lower rungs. If you’ve ever been in their offices late at night you will see a lot of bright, young people with no personal life. Many of those people get chewed up before they make it to full partner. Those firms have crash pads and kitchens that serve meals at night.
3. I talk to a lot of people who are very unhappy practicing law, mostly those with big buck major firms in large cities. A lot of them spend hours commuting to and from work. They make a lot of money but have to spend a lot of money to live in a major city economy, including houses, taxes, transportation and high end private schools for the kids. They rarely see their spouse and kids. They simply don’t know how to get out of the rut.
4. I agree with those who say that you need to place as high in your class as possible if you want to work for a major firm. Order of the Coif helps in landing law firm jobs. As long as you don’t go to a school viewed with disdain, people who graduate in the top 10-25% of their class generally can find work.
5. A law firm, even a large one, is essentially a small business compared to the corporate world. Your pension is going to depend on what you save, maybe with some employer sponsored contributions to a 401(k) plan. A lot of lawyers have cool toys but a dim future compared to people with defined benefit plans in the corporate world or government pensions.
6. If high class rank means no working during school, then that is what you should do. If you are smart enough to work and place at the top of the class, fine. Otherwise, think of law school as your job. If you’re short on cash, you may have to find a place that costs less so you can concentrate on the grades. Perhaps a state university is in order. If you come out with too much debt, it adds pressure on the front end.
7. While some people may go into law thinking they are going to change the world, in most cases it really is just a job, not an adventure. If you go in understanding that, you won’t be disappointed.

YMMV. Good Luck!

Dave Markowitz
January 16, 2006, 02:15 PM
Q) What do they call the person who finished last in his law school class?

A) Counselor...


I thought the answer to that questions was, "Your Honor." :D

spartacus2002
January 16, 2006, 05:06 PM
I see a good cross section of views here. Here are my perspectives in no particular order.

1. A law degree adds value regardless of what you want to do with it. It can add a lot of value to an engineering background, more so than a liberal arts degree. It could open doors in the business world and government and not require you to practice in a law firm. You have to make a cost benefit analysis to decide if the added value outweighs the opportunity cost.
2. The guys who make the really big bucks in a law firm arenít the grunts doing the work but the people who bring in the clients and get a piece of the action generated by the grunts. If you can bring in clients on day 1, you can be a golden boy from the start. If not, you have to work your way through the system to get to the top. Major law firms that pay the really big bucks are sweat shops for people in the lower rungs. If youíve ever been in their offices late at night you will see a lot of bright, young people with no personal life. Many of those people get chewed up before they make it to full partner. Those firms have crash pads and kitchens that serve meals at night.
3. I talk to a lot of people who are very unhappy practicing law, mostly those with big buck major firms in large cities. A lot of them spend hours commuting to and from work. They make a lot of money but have to spend a lot of money to live in a major city economy, including houses, taxes, transportation and high end private schools for the kids. They rarely see their spouse and kids. They simply donít know how to get out of the rut.
4. I agree with those who say that you need to place as high in your class as possible if you want to work for a major firm. Order of the Coif helps in landing law firm jobs. As long as you donít go to a school viewed with disdain, people who graduate in the top 10-25% of their class generally can find work.
5. A law firm, even a large one, is essentially a small business compared to the corporate world. Your pension is going to depend on what you save, maybe with some employer sponsored contributions to a 401(k) plan. A lot of lawyers have cool toys but a dim future compared to people with defined benefit plans in the corporate world or government pensions.
6. If high class rank means no working during school, then that is what you should do. If you are smart enough to work and place at the top of the class, fine. Otherwise, think of law school as your job. If youíre short on cash, you may have to find a place that costs less so you can concentrate on the grades. Perhaps a state university is in order. If you come out with too much debt, it adds pressure on the front end.
7. While some people may go into law thinking they are going to change the world, in most cases it really itís just a job, not an adventure. If you go in understanding that, you wonít be disappointed.

YMMV. Good Luck!


I'm quoting the above post in its entirety because it is worth reading at least twice. I concur with everything this gentleman has posted.

rwc
January 17, 2006, 02:49 AM
Let me take this in a slightly different direction... How will law school and being a lawyer fit into your life?

Yes, you can grind your way through anything for three years if you are determined to do so. That said, about a third of the marriages in my law school class didn't survive to graduation. It really sucks to be a statistic...

If you have serious non-professional interests or a family I would strongly encourage you to think twice before going down the litigation path. You lose control of your schedule and your friends and family just won't understand why you can't make it to little Jimmy's marriage/barmitzvah/etc.

FWIW, I chose the public service path after law school. I moved to Seattle from Tucson for its climbing potential and while clerking for a judge I ticked off all the Cascade volcanoes, and took road trips most every weekend. I enjoyed the more "9-5" schedule I was able to have, and have done quite a bit of good work.

If you are interested in the Northwest or Arizona and have specific questions feel free to PM me. Best of luck to all our future colleagues.

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